Tomorrow my baby girl will turn 2. Have you ever wondered what it’s like to breastfeed a 2 year old? Let me tell you a little bit about mine.
She talks. A lot. Most 2 year olds are starting to grasp words and maybe even some sentences. Not only can she name every single character on Peppa Pig but she regularly spins a web of fantasy to her dad when he asks what we did that day. Dad – “What did you do today?” Miss 2 – “We went to the park (yes). There were swings (correct) and a slide (yep) and a see-saw (I don’t think so). We saw a chicken (no we didn’t) and it said BWARK BWARK BWARK (uh…)”.
She verbally tells me when she wants to be breastfed. I raised her brother to ask for “milk” and that’s all he ever asked for – milk. His sister’s brain works differently. She looks beyond what I have taught her, and at the words other people use. And sometimes she invents her own variations. She sometimes asks for milk. Then she’ll ask for milkies. Sometimes it’s milky-milky-yum-yums. If I don’t respond to her request quickly enough, she’ll start issuing demands – “I want a boob!”. Boobies, boo-boos, milky-boobs and milky-fountain. She has also, literally, said to me “Can I please have a breastfeed mummy?”
When she’s done, she’s been known to tell me to “put the milk away” and “close up that milk now”.
She doesn’t usually “self soothe”. She does, occasionally, crash out in the pram, car, lounge or in daddy’s lap by accident, but that’s obviously not the same as chucking her into bed on her own, walking out and expecting her to sleep. I have very low expectations when it comes to sleep, and I have been rewarded with very relaxed bedtimes. She still sleeps with me fulltime, although sometimes she’ll sleep for up to an hour on her own through the day, and probably 3 hours during the night (so I don’t have to go to bed at the same time as her).
I think she sleeps through the night, but I’m not entirely sure. As we sleep together, her night-time feeds are a minimal disturbance to my rest and I am not always fully aware that she’s suckling. I have learned to focus on the quality of sleep, and whether we are happy, rather than how many hours in a row we’re getting.
She doesn’t have a routine for sleep. Sometimes she stays up very late, long after her big brother has gone to bed. She revels in the undivided attention she gets from her daddy and I.
She eats food. She doesn’t drink any other kinds of milk, although she does drink water and sometimes juice. I have never followed any set rules about whether to give milk or food first. As far as I can tell, there’s no need – we eat food at breakfast, lunch and dinner, with snacks in between. And she has milk when that’s what she wants. She doesn’t eat as much as some other kids, but she is growing beautifully so I’m not worried about that. She’s always fed herself, we never did pureed food and sometimes she uses cutlery. Sometimes she gets her own fruit from the fruit bowl.
She’s never had expressed milk or formula and she doesn’t have a dummy. I have never had any problems going out without her – I leave her with people who she and I trust, and she gets along just fine. I haven’t left her overnight before, but that’s just my style of parenting. I certainly haven’t avoided leaving her overnight because she’s breastfed.
I don’t know how many times she breastfeeds per day, because I don’t count. But if I had to guesstimate, I’d say it’s somewhere between five and five hundred, depending on the day, what we’re doing, where we are and how she’s feeling. If we have a quiet day at home after a busy week, she’ll feed all day. I wouldn’t say she’s fed on demand, or that she’s self weaning, because there are times when I actively discourage her from breastfeeding. I am mindful that sometimes she really wants to breastfeed, and sometimes she actually needs to breastfeed, and I am comfortable enough in my own parenting skills to differentiate and sometimes say no.
I have talked openly before about my apprehension for life after breastfeeding, but when I look my little girl, it makes me immensely proud to think that breastfeeding helped shape the small person she has become.